Guitarist Mike Einziger is known mostly for his work in Incubus but in the last few years he has been increasingly working in film, scoring the feature “Scenic Route” and working with Hans Zimmer on “The Lone Ranger.” He and Zimmer have begun work on another project, but are staying tight-klipped about details at this time.
Einziger, who wrote and produced Avicii’s hit “Wake Me Up,” will talk about his work as a film composer on the panel “My First Film” at the Billboard & Hollywood Reporter Film and TV Music Conference on Oct. 29. Joining him will be other composers relatively new to the game: Stephen Price (“Gravity”); German rock star Herbert Groenemeyer (“The American”); Matthew Margeson (“Kick-Ass 2”); and Guster’s Ryan Miller (“In a World”).
At his studio in Malibu, Einziger talked about working with Zimmer, being a studio rat since high school and why film work gets in the way of him returning to Harvard.
A lot of musicians who make the transition from the rock world to scoring film are a little taken aback by the collaborative nature of it. As a songwriter in a band, though, you were probably more prepared than many. How do you compare the two working situations?
Working as a team with other people is the same -- I like sharing stuff with people. There is a part of me that likes to be isolated, but ultimately it’s more gratifying to share the experience with someone else. Having to deal with the logistical issues, talking to a director or producers, people who have no musical vocabulary, sometimes there is a little bit that can get lost in the translation. Part of being a really good film composer is being able to navigate that. It’s sort of unfortunate, but in a brutal reality sometimes that’s even bigger than the music.
Has knowing your way around a studio affected your work in film?
Learning how to record and be an engineer has been the most valuable thing for me going into the film world because I couldexpress to someone just by making a recording rather than talk about it. I’d rather ask ‘what do you think of this?’ and play something rather than talk about it. You can talk about music that paints music in a certain light andthen there’s a certain disconnect when you actually make it.
What was the challenge of doing a movie on your own (“The Scenic Route”)?
It was a difficult movie to score because there are only two characters and the entire movie is dialogue. Figuring out ways of not stepping on what they were saying was really challenging. They’re out in the desert. The movie is really dark.
How did the film’s tone affect the instrumentation you used?
My main instrument on it was my Mellotron. It was a combination of the Mellotron and strings and I was doing a lot of bowing –- playing electric bass with a bow, really dirty sounding, and cello. I would combine overdriven bass with cello and pitched down violins and violas. I used the pitch shifter in ProTools a lot because you can get these throaty sounds out of a violin or viola. I will write a part for a violin, have [fiance and musical partner] Ann Marie [Calhoun] play it on a viola and then I’ll pitch it down.
How do you compare that to your experience on ‘The Lone Ranger’?
We would have meetings with [director] Gore Verbinski and they would seriouslylast 10 hours. Sit in there for 10-plus hours, going frame by frame, taking notes and making changes. It was a great experience and, from what I understand, that was very intense as collaborations in film music go. I had a fun time. Gore’s a musicians and he’s very specific about what he likes. He knows how to lead a team.
You took a break from Incubus to attend Harvard a few years ago. Do you think you’ll go back or has film work become too important?
I feel I am doing everything that I want to be doing. The film scoring definitely has something to do with me not returning. It’s really exciting to be around someone like Hans. He’s really open with me, he lets me watch what he’s doing and gives me a lot of useful information and critique. Also the way Ann Marie and I work together, when things come up, it makes it really hard to say I’m going back to school.
Registration is open for the Billboard & Hollywood Reporter Film and TV Music Conference on Oct. 29 and 30 at the W Hotel in Hollywood.